The development in space has indeed arrived at an inflexion point wherein it has witnessed a smooth metamorphosis from the initial stages of discovery to the matured stages of security and commerce. Space law refers to an arena of law that governs all space-related activities. It usually includes the rules, principles and international law standards as stated in the five international treaties and five basic principles that govern outer space and have been developed by the United Nations. Space law primarily addresses a number of issues such as the preservation of space and environment of earth, rescue process of astronauts, usage of space technologies, cooperation by the international community, the liabilities of the devastation caused by objects in space and the subsequent settlement of disputes. Certain fundamental principles give direction to the trajectory of space activities like the notion of space being the province of mankind, the freedom to explore and usage of outer space by all the nations equally and the application of the doctrine of non-appropriation of the outer space.
Spacefaring nations and myriads of privately-owned companies have been channelizing upcoming technologies and bringing forth the value while at the same time inviting immense competition from other countries to discover the unknown. Henceforth, owing to the expanding ambitions of the nations, there has become an inevitable need for laws governing the space to prevent any exploitation or occurrence of unhealthy activities concerning the space. Several countries are tapping their resources and have made progress at different levels in the space sector. The article provides a concise outlook on the space laws enacted by the United Kingdom, the United States of America and the desideratum for a comprehensive strategy for a better way forward.
TREATIES AND CONVENTIONS
The five international treaties underpinning the space laws and supervised by the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNCOPUOS) include-
- The outer space treaty– It is a treaty that governs the activities of nations apropos to the exploration and use of outer space including the moon as well as other celestial bodies.
- The rescue agreement– It is an agreement that mandates the possible actions to rescue the astronauts, facilitating the return of astronauts along with the objects launched in outer space.
- The moon agreement– This agreement governs the activities employed by nations on the moon and other celestial bodies specifically. It further stipulates that usage of celestial bodies can be done solely for peaceful purposes.
- The liability convention– It states the liability of the international community for any damage caused by space objects. Moreover, the signatories are bound to agree to the mandated standard procedures for adjudicating any damage claims.
- The registration convention– It states the requirement for registration of objects launched into outer space. It empowers the United Nations Secretary-General to keep a record of all space objects in a well-maintained register.
STATUS QUO OF SPACE LAWS IN THE UK
The UK has been one of the earliest successful countries to have adopted national space legislation to manage the operational activities in space of private entities in 1986. The body controlling all the space affairs in the country is known as the United Kingdom Space Agency (established in 2010). The Outer Space Act is of immense importance to the UK as it allows the nation to pursue activities subject to the standards promulgated by the international law.
Moreover, the Space Industry Act, 2018 facilitates making arrangements for space and suborbital activities. It also elaborates upon the kaleidoscopic range of necessities like authorization of spaceflights, responsibilities for well-being and certain pre-requisites for protection. The statute is indispensable for the public authority’s mechanical system which refers to the initiative of turning the UK’s small-scale satellite manufacturing enterprise into a globally reckoned centre point for satellite activities.
With regards to indemnity, liability and insurance coverage requirements, the Deregulation Act of 2015 mentions that a licensee must indemnify the government against any damage /loss claim brought against it as a result of the licensed space activities. To cull out the gist, the perspective of the UK space industry seems to be bright and the satellite launch from the country in 2022 shall be the driving fuel to accelerate commercial vigour and offer the UK the long-waited potentiality to have an autonomous launch capability.
A PANORAMIC VIEW ON SPACE LAWS IN THE USA
The most robust, efficacious and detailed national space law policy addressing the activities of space of any nation exists in the United States. It is a signatory to four main space treaties namely the agreement on the rescue of astronauts, return of astronauts and objects launched in outer space (1968), the convention on international liability for damage by space objects (1972), the convention on registration of objects launched in outer space (1975) and treaty on principles governing the state activities in the exploration, use of outer space along with moon and other celestial bodies.
In 1984, The Commercial Space Launch Act was passed to give a boost to the commercial space launch industry. The US has also developed a strong legal regime to accommodate concerns relating to national security and to enable the advancement of commercial remote sensing activities. Moreover, NASA, which was established after the launch of Sputnik by the Soviet Union under the mandate given by the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958 declares that the policy of the US shall be inclined towards devoting all space activities to peaceful purposes for the advantage of the mankind. This space act also allows NASA to acquire, construct, improvise, maintain specialized labs, aeronautical and space vehicles or enter into transactions also known as the space act agreements.
To summarize, the US space law is an ever-evolving and exciting arena wherein the role of agencies and stakeholders involved has advanced rapidly. The nation has also been an important role model with the widest legal frameworks concerning space exploration and continues to set inspiring examples for others to follow.
CONCLUSION AND A WAY FORWARD
Space is undergoing a paradigm shift and despite the expansive future of space, the existing space-related framework is still rooted in archaic methodology. Protection of space is a sine qua non to achieve security and prosperity in space. It has been observed that the USA has an extremely balanced and progressive legal framework for space activities whereas the UK despite having a sound legal structure, still lags behind the space agencies of other countries. As we are ensnared with existential challenges on Earth, we may continue to look to space in order to arrive at potential solutions. Scientific and civil agencies need to commence missions of exploration, set certain parameters to establish sources of value, administrative or defence bodies to render freedom to navigate and privately owned industries to accelerate development in space by rendering state of the art technologies. Moreover, laws related to space must undergo constant scrutiny to clog all legal loopholes and a labyrinth of oncoming predicaments.
Author(s) Name: Jasleen Bedi (University school of Law and Legal studies, GGSIPU)